96 Claret at OFW 29/04/1999 (TNB)I suppose the professionals have tasted this vintage several times, but this was my first look. It is certainly not as ripe and attractive as 95, and I rather suspect it is no better than that vintage. Performance did seem to vary a lot. The trendy properties remain prohibitively expensive, but there is a layer of less fashionable wines which are plausible value, if not exactly bargains.
- Fonteneil 1996 (Fronsac) Moderately dense. Plummy/cherryish, ripe fruit, softish oak. Reasonable length and acidity. Very gluggable style. 10:99
- Beausejour-Becot 1996 Dense, india ink colour. Impenetrable spicy-plum nose. Bags of tannins. Chocolatey hints. Is the length really there? Maybe just good.
- L'Angelus 1996 Dense, young red. Slightly smoky, fine Cab nose. Potentially pencily. Lovely, dry claret. 53:99
- Elderton Merlot 1996 Moderately deep, young red. Slightly sweet, softish, New Worldy fruit. Easily spotted blind as a ringer. Not my sort of thing. 14:99
- Brane-Cantenac 1996 Traditional, capsicum and blackcurrant claret. Will make a classy drink in time. A bit of a sleeper. 21:99
- Calon-Segur 1996 Moderately deep, young red. Flashier and more forward than the B-C, but not clearly better. Pleasant enough. 24:99
- Cos d'Estournel 1996 Smokey, rounded, fairly forward seeming. May be hiding more beside the elegance, but not amazing at first sight. For now,
- Carraudes de Lafite 1996 Slightly leafy/vegetal. Pleasantly constructed. 19:99
- Pichon Baron 1996 Plummy, slightly roasted. Softish - very good but is it great? 38:00
- Champagne Excellence NV (Gosset) Gosset's basic fizz: quite "up-front", presence rather than elegance. No great complexity, but pleasantly gluggable.
- Erbacher Hohenrain Spatlese 69 (Deinhard) Smoky, mature - perhaps fading a touch. Pleasant.
California and Washington State Tasting at Oddbins Fine Wine, Cambridge 27/04/1999 (RJB)
- Cuvee Napa 1994 Easy (but dull) fizz.
- Forman Napa Valley Chardonnay 1996 (16.99) Lightish toffeed nose and a banana edge. good acidity, but an overlong alcoholic finish.
- Mer Soleil Chardonnay Central Coast 1996 (11.99) Horrible vegetal nose initially, but this became peachy and floral. Soft with toffeed oak.
- Ravenswood Sonoma County Zinfandel 1996 (11.99) Sweet and gummy - gentle leathery fruit. A touch dilute on the finish.
- Ravenswood Sonoma County Zinfandel 1995 (11.99) Sweet pencil shavings - finishes a touch short.
- Wing Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon 1993 (22.99) Rather thinnish and with old oak showing through. Soft fruit.
- Wing Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon 1994 (18.99) Sulphury/stalky nose. High toned at the finish and quite chewy.
- Wing Canyon Cabernet Sauvignon 1995 (18.99) Earthy cherries and a mentholy edge - good food wine.
- Andrew Will 'R' Cabernet Sauvignon 1996 (24.99) Soft, soft, soft on the nose. Earthy and spicy.
- Andrew Will Sorella 1996 (24.99) 10% cabernet franc, 25% merlot, 65% cabernet sauvignon. Sweet plummy fruit and good acidity - well-crafted wine.
- Phillip Togni Cabernet Sauvignon Napa Valley 1996 (41.99) Sulphury/stalky to start with - good sweet fruit. Jammy cabernet.
- John's Blend 1995 (16.99) An Oz ringer. Hugely minty/menthol. Rather thin.
- Quilceda Creek Cabernet Sauvignon 1995 (29.99) Sweetness again (a characteristic that puts me off many Californian reds) - reasonable fruit.
- Lanson 1988 From a magnum. A good palate cleanser which seemed good, but not great.
Wine group at M.M.'s 26/04/1999 (TNB)The Wine Group's first all Hungarian evening, I believe. The Tokays (which made an excellent match with pate) delicious, the reds respectable, the dry whites perhaps a shade characterless.
Not always easy to see which bit of the label is the wine, and which is the bit about not drinking if you are pregnant, so I've no idea whether the words that follow describe the wine!
- Tokaji dry Oremus 1996 Disznoko Marzipany almondy, more or less decent length.
- Badacsonyi Keknyelu 1996 A shade anonymous. Fruity.
- Tokaji szaraz szamorodni 1992 Dry-sherryish. Long.
- Tokaji Oremus, 4 putts 1989 Sweetly, honeyed nose. Sherryish again. Sweetish, but nice acidity.
- Tokaji aszu, 6 putts, Kereskedohaz, 1988 Greenish. Very rich. Sweet, just enough acidity.
- Tokaji Oremus, 6 putts, 1981 Slightly lighter. Very nice length and balance.
- Vllanyi Cab Sauv 1996 (Tamas) Leafy blackcurrant nose. Dryish, decent length. A bit austere.
- Villanyi Cab Sauv and Franc 1994, Bock Cherryish, again very dry. Bags of creamy, toasty oak.
- Villanyi Le Sommelier Cabernet + Merlot 1994 Light, a shade thin. Again, lots of oak.
- Villanyi Cabernet Sauvignon Barrique 1991 Plummy chocolate, yet a shade light.
- Villanyi Burgundi 1991 Polgar Richer fruit - nicely rounded wine.
- Azsu Essensia 1975 (Gabor) Cherry nose, brown sugar palate. Very enjoyable.
- Domaine de la Grande Bellane 1997, Valreas Silky, fruity Cotes-du-Rhone with gentle tannins. Very good cheap (5.99?) early drinking.
- Saintsbury Carneros Pinot Noir 1990 Thought I'd give this another go, but as reported earlier in the month this is on the way down. The fruit has faded.
- Rosemount Estate Show Reserve Chardonnay 1992 Suprisingly not showing any age - fresh chardonnay fruit and goodish acidity.
- Riesling Schlossberg Vielle Vignnes 1989 (P. Blanck) Quite evolved (I tend to think of 89 as a recent vintage, but I suppose it's 10 years old). At the spicy end of kerosene, quite dry and elegant. I quite liked this.
- Mas Christine (Rivesaltes) 1993 A bit cough-sweety, quite dry, with the usual slightly brown-sugar flavours. Not quite as attractive as the 92.
Wines of Portugal 20/04/1999 (TNB)A quick tour only of this extensive event. While there is clearly quite a lot of unfortunate "modern winemaking" influence in the form of flashy, oaky wines and boring international varietals, there is also a lot of reasonably priced, serious, ageworthy wine. I thought the specialist importer Raymond Reynolds had a particularly good selection. There follows a few brief notes.
- Quinta de Camarate VR Terras do Sado 1992 Gutsy, slightly boiled-sweet fruit. Very drinkable.
- Conventual 1997 (Alentejo) Lifted cherry - a shade lighter. Grown-up fruitiness
- Dao Messias 1996 Nice fruit - drinkable basic wine.
- Dao Messias Garrafeira 1992 Old-fashioned colour, ready. Good food wine.
- Duas Quintas Reserva 1994 Raw planky - not convinced. Perhaps faulty.
- Quinta de Pellada Tinta Roriz 1996 Serious but possibly a bit modern.
- Quinta de Pellada Touriga Nacional 1996 Very blackberrish (the variety, I guess). Again good but a bit modernish.
- Quinta do Cotto Tinto 1997 Very young, but this seemed pretty commercial.
- Quinta de la Rosa Reserve 1997 A shade estery (will wear off) , gutsy, intriguing gin-and-tonic nose. Worth another try.
- Bairrada - several wines by Luis Pato Concentrated wines, but a shade sweet, fruit-driven and oaky. Will do well, I guess but a bit international in style for me.
- Casa de Saima Branco 1997 (Bairrada) Concentrated - good length and balance. Seems good, but must retry.
- Quinta de Abrigada Tinto 1996 (Alenquer) Gutsy, serious, but a bit anonymous perhaps. Again, I would like another look at this.
- Casa de Saima Tinto 1997 Red fruits, guts, length. Good stuff.
- Quinta dos Roques Reserva 1996 Oaked, fine for aging.
- Quinta dos Roques Alfrocheiro Preto 1996 Leafier (in a good way), single varietal definition. Lots of interest.
- Quinta des Maias Jaen Tinto 1996 Charry herbs and brambles. Another fine wine.
- Passaduoro 1994 Herby, concentrated, characterful wine from the port estate.
- Redoma 1995 Niepoort's table wine. This seems more serious even than I remember. Good stuff.
- Champagne Claude Lancelot Brut Excellent growers Champagne with weight and structure. Impressive.
- Oeil de Perdrix Brut, Devaux Insipid pink Champagne - thin.
- Joao Pires Moscatel 1996 Dry wine with a toffeed flavour - pleasant.
- Lindemans Coonawarra Botrytised Riesling 1996 From a half. Good acidity and weight of fruit. A sticky for drinking young.
- Champagne Bauget Jouette Brut Good fizz with a medium weight elegance.
- Chateau Coufran 1991 Respectable ready-to-drink claret. Good food wine.
- Tinto da Anfora 1992 Reasonable red with a flower petal fragrance.
- Brown Brothers Late Harvest Orange Muscat and Flora 1997 From a half. Australian Beaumes-des-Venise. Orangey flavours, but without the citric acidity. 0
- Petaluma 1989 Chardonnay Just going over the edge - time to drink up. Hazelnut oil flavours and good acidity.
- Cote de Rhone 1985 (Guigal) One of two bottles left. It may be a shade past peak, but is now drinking nicely like a slightly rustic, moderate quality Chateauneuf. I wonder if recent vintages have this potential?
- Chianti Classico Riserva Rancia 1995 (Felsina Berardenga) Lovely, ripe, blackberry fruit, with plummy depths and a hint of spice. Not quite as pure as the Fontodi Vigna del Sorbo a few weeks ago, but more complex at the moment. I think this is because of a bit of well-judged new oak. This is such a reliably good estate! At least
Burgundy at OFW 15/04/1999 (TNB)
- Santenay Beauregard (Belland) 1997 Fresh, melony nose. Rounded, soft. Reasonably, but fairly seriously oaked. Forward, drinkable, not for keeping. 14.99
- Puligny-Montrachet 1997 (Pascal) Quite estery. Tighter. Big hit of oaky fruit. Not subtle. 19.99
- Meursault Charmes 1997 (Michelot) Slight sulphur. Elegant, ginger nose. Disjointed, with a long finish. Slightly artificial?
- St. Veran La Cras 1997 (Lasserat) Buttery rhubarb. Nice balance and length. The most exciting of the 97s. 16.99 Just about
- Chassagne-Montrachet Morgeot 1996 (B. Morey) Tight, balanced, possibly a shade simple to be really first-class, but at least rather good. 22.99
- Meursault 1996 (Verget) Ripe bananas. Lots of acidity, decent length. Despite all the hype, this is impressive (so is the price, for a village wine). 26.99
- Pouilly Fuisse Perrieres 1995 (Ferret) Honeyed, possibly slightly botrytised. Softish, and slightly simple. Stunning nose, but fades. 17.49
- Savigny Laviere 1997 (Tollot-Beaut) Crushed red fruits, quite dry. Attractive basic burgundy. 17.99
- Beaune Clos de Rois 1996 (Rapet) Red fruits again, slightly more concentrated, but rather simple and not clearly better.
- Nuits St George Pruliers 1995 (Laurent) Refined, excellent, but a shade austere. Brilliant stuff, at a price. Just about
- L'Agnet 1997, Priorat Heavy, big wine, but you expect that from Priorat. Scents of roses, strawberries and pepperiness with an alcoholic almost Port-like finish.
- Clos de Marquis 1983 The second wine of Las Cases - good colour, blackcurrant and tobacco nose with a softness on the palate that suggests it is ready to drink. Very good for a second wine.
- Chianti Classico Riserva, Vigna del Sorbo 1995 (Fontodi) Solid, bright colour. Pure, concentrated, blackberry fruit with hints of spice and chocolate. Good balance and length. Well but unobtrusively structured. Fine wine.
Saintsbury Pinot Noir Vertical Plus Guests - Gang of 6 07/04/1999 (RJB)
The message from this tasting is drink Saintsbury Pinots youngish - some were past it, others were still OK, but probably hadn't become any better for ageing. I'll certainly be drinking up my remaining 1990s soon. Wines were tasted blind.
- Saintsbury Carneros Pinot Noir 1997 Gummy nose, a touch simple and confected.
- Corton Renardes 1990, Reine Pedauque Sulphorous nose, rather simple, some pepperiness.
- Saintsbury Reserve Pinot Noir 1991 Good Pinot, correctly mature, peppery finish.
- Saintsbury Carneros Pinot Noir 1994 Too sweet for real balance and quite New Worldy. Some fruit and reasonable.
- Saintsbury Carneros Pinot Noir 1990 Good nose, one of the classier wines on show. Sweetish fruit and tannins coming through on finish.
- Saintsbury Carneros Pinot Noir 1986 Completely past it - maderised, wet fish and vinegar.
- Calera Jensen Pinot Noir 1994 This has aged nicely (I thought it a bit older than this). Good balance and clear Pinot Fruit.
- Saintsbury Carneros Pinot Noir 1988 Very brown and with VA. Going downhill.
- Ladoix Les Joyeuses 1983, Michel Mallard Drying finish, going downhill.
- Hamilton Russell Pinot Noir 1992 I put this as decentish old Burgundy. Dumbish nose and on the way down, but good mature flavours. )
- Saintsbury Garnet Pinot Noir 1997 Commercial and with a thin finish.
- Saintsbury Reserve Pinot Noir 1995 Sweet overripe fruit and no real length. Other scores ranged from 88 to 91 so I was in the minority on this one.
- Devil's Lair Pinot Noir 1997 Chewy, and a bit too sweet. a dry finish. Again I was in the minority on this one.
- Saintsbury Carneros Pinot Noir 1995 Over sweet for my taste - almosts tastes chaptalised.
- Wieninger Blauburgunder 1994 A touch vegetal - red peppers, almost shirazy. A touch short and with a bit of VA at the finish. Strangely enough, half of those at the tasting considered this to be corked (and didn't score it), and the other half (myself included) didn't think it corked. I tasted this bottle again the next day and could find no traces of corkiness at all.
- Saintsbury Carneros Pinot Noir 1987 Vegetal and VA finish. Past it.
- Volnay Champans 1990, Marquis d'Angerville Dry and astringent. Horrible. , possibly less!
- Clos de Beze 1993, Faively Toasty Pinot, reasonable length, a touch acidic.
- Nuits St Georges 1995, Domaine d'Arlot
Dilute, nothing very special.
And beforehand . . .
- Schramsberg Blanc de Noirs 1987 The best aged New World Fizz I've tasted - very Champagne like. Good acidity and an old Champagne flavour and light nutiness.
- Saintsbury Reserve Chardonnay 1996
In keeping with the theme of the evening, but not really my style of Chardonnay - too sweet, too much creamy oak.
And afterwards . . .
- Niepoort Colheita 1983 (bottled 1997) Delicious. Coffee and spices, but with a tangy acidity. Went very well with cheese.
- Champagne NV (Bruno Paillard) Very "brandyish", with this component providing quite a lot of the weight - rather like heavy oaking. Not bad in its way, but I'm not so keen on this style.
- Jurancon sec 1996 (J. Guirouilh) Rather pleasant - dry, almost floral, intruiging fruit flavours.
- Coteaux du Layon 1988 (Dom. de la Motte) Correct, with grassy, honey flavours, but rather dilute.
- Champagne Charles Heidsieck Brut Reserve, Mise en Cave 1994 Good fizz with generous flavours - honeyed.
- Piper-Heidsieck Champagne Brut Rather course and lacking charm.